Dr. Erin Leigh Hommel: Hemphill-Gojer Award in Internal Medicine

By a twist of fate, Dr. Erin Leigh Hommel needed credit for health in high school, so she selected an "introduction to medicine" class. A bright student who excelled in math and science, she enjoyed the subject enough to sign up for a higher-level course that included trailing physicians around a local hospital.

That's when she became hooked.

"I loved being in the hospital," said Dr. Hommel, a June UT Southwestern Medical School graduate. "I decided then that I wanted to go to medical school, and I never looked back."    

Dr. Erin Leigh Hommel

This year's recipient of the Hemphill-Gojer Award in Internal Medicine -- which provides $3,500 in cash -- Dr. Hommel bucked her family's propensity to choose banking or finance as a career. Instead, she headed from her hometown of Tyler to Texas A&M University where she graduated summa cum laude, earning a degree in genetics.

It was also at A&M that she met her husband, Jonathan Hommel, who graduates from UT Southwestern in June with a Ph.D. in integrative biology.

Because she's more a "thinker than a doer," Dr. Hommel said internal medicine fits her perfectly. "You get to a point in medical school when you have to figure out whom you think most like. Do you think like a surgeon? Like a pediatrician? Or like an internist? For me, there was no question.

"I find that when I'm doing something in a more subspecialty area, I get frustrated because I want to take care of the whole patient -- which is what we're taught to do in internal medicine."

A member of the honor medical society Alpha Omega Alpha, Dr. Hommel has proved herself well among patients, said Dr. James Wagner, associate professor of internal medicine and associate dean for student affairs.

"As Erin's attending physician, I was struck by her ability to perform at a level well above a fourth-year medical student," he said. "She took full charge of the care of the patients assigned to her. She could participate in and contribute to patient-care discussions in a mature and seasoned manner."

Established by Ross H. and Anne Lou Seymour Hemphill, the Hemphill-Gojer Award in Internal Medicine was created in honor of the Hemphills' son and daughter-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. Ross Seymour Hemphill; their daughter and son-in-law Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Gojer; and Anne Hemphill's parents, E. Clyde and Florine Allen Seymour. Drs. Hemphill and Gojer are UT Southwestern alumni.

"The biggest thing about receiving any award at UT Southwestern is that I feel I'm surrounded every day by people who are bright and outstanding physicians," Dr. Hommel said. "My classmates are some of the people I'm going to admire most professionally. So the idea of being selected out of this group to receive an award is really an honor and not to be taken lightly."